Mike Hall is a bassist from New Jersey who toured throughout the east coast with the band Running Late, sharing stages with some of the biggest names in the music industry such as Blondie, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Third Eye Blind, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon, Three Doors Down, and many more. Since Running Late disbanded last year, he's been featured in Bass Musician Magazine, received an endorsement by Skjold Design Guitars, released his first EP, and began creating bass covers on social media which have received thousands of views.
New Jersey Stage caught up with him via email to learn more about why the band disbanded and what he's been up to since.
Running Late was working on an album before the band members decided to part ways. Did the craziness of the pandemic and venues closing down play a role in the breakup? Or was the band headed down that way anyways? After a decade, was it just time to move on??
Yeah, we pretty much finished writing, arranging, and crowdfunding our next album through IndieGoGo a couple of months before everyone went their separate ways. However, I can say with absolute certainty that Running Late was going to end, regardless of the pandemic. The reasons as to why, without sharing too much personal information, ranged from differences in our creative and performance expectations, to unchecked ego’s, undeserved entitlement, and a severe lack of personal accountability.
In all honesty, the band should have broken up about six months prior, but I did everything in my power to try to keep us together. We had a lot of momentum throughout 2019 that I didn’t want to just throw away, especially after performing with Lifehouse at the QuickChek Ballooning Festival, in addition to headlining a string of very successful shows at The Stone Pony, Debonair Music Hall, and The Bowery Electric. We even earned the attention of a Sony Music A&R who was interested in pitching our upcoming album to one of their subsidiaries for a major label release.
Unfortunately, things just became too hostile for me to justify continuing to keep the band together. The “carrot on a stick” of a potential major label release, wasn’t worth my eroding mental health and love for music. Ultimately; I reached a breaking point and decided to walk away, which by proxy, dissolved the project. That being said; I genuinely do wish my old band members nothing but the best in their own creative endeavors, but I knew in my heart of hearts that if I wanted to go as far as I could in the music industry, that I had to continue alone.
What were some of your most memorable shows with Running Late?
It’s pretty tough to say, considering that we’ve had so many memorable performances over the years, but I think 3 really come to mind; the first being, well... my very first big show! It was at Starland Ballroom, and I remember being so nervous that my left forearm locked in place for nearly a week after the performance. It was probably due to the incredible rush of adrenaline, but it will always stand out as my first real taste of the limelight.
The second has got to be when we performed with Creedence Clearwater Revisited at the Alive@5 music festival in Stamford, CT. We played to a crowd of over 5,000 people, all of whom were just so receptive and excited to hear our set from start to finish. However; the best part was being able to connect with Doug Clifford (aka Cosmo) over some drinks at the hotel bar, right after the show was over. My brother and I talked to him for hours about the history of CCR, him wanting to become a high school football coach if the band didn’t get signed, the EXTREMELY bad blood that exists between them and John Fogerty, and how he was thrilled over a younger audience embracing their music. He’s an incredible guy, a hell of a story teller, and if I could think of anyone that I would want to model the rockstar lifestyle around, it would definitely be him.
Finally, the last was when we opened for Sugar Ray at The Stone Pony. We had an awesome show, and got the crowd going berserk for their set right after. After the night was over; we were standing outside the venue to shuffle some cars around, and Sugar Ray’s tour bus just stops right in front of us. We were pretty confused, but shortly after, Mark McGrath came out to greet me and the rest of the band. He told us that we were crushing it, that he didn’t want us to stop performing, and wished us the best moving forward. After he left, we kind of just looked at each other in disbelief. He didn’t owe us anything, he could have stayed in his tour bus and we wouldn’t think twice about it, but the fact that he chose to come out and share such kind words really made it a night to remember.
Post Running Late, you’ve released a 3 song EP and videos of bass covers. How did these videos and the EP come about? Is this something you’ve thought about doing for a while?
Yeah, I always wanted to have another outlet in which I could express myself creatively. It’s been something that I’ve wished for quite some time, but didn’t really know how to go about. However, with the music industry in flux from the pandemic, I realized that there was no better time than now to seriously try my hand at marketing myself as a solo musician. Thus, the brand “Mike Hall Bass” was created.
When it comes to the cover videos; I decided on that as an ideal medium in which I could showcase my creative and mechanical aptitude to others. I have a rather eclectic taste in music that spans numerous genres, so I thought it would be a fun challenge to reinterpret a variety of well-known songs as either my own solo bass arrangements, or as traditional bass covers, all of which are posted on my Instagram page in addition to my YouTube / Facebook pages.
When it comes to the EP; it was at the request of tons of people wanting to both support me financially, and as a means to have my arrangements as MP3’s. For those who are unaware: my EP, titled “The Next Step”, is a short collection of some of my most well received solo bass arrangements to date. Although these arrangements are covers; I feel as if I’ve taken a significant amount of creative liberties that really make these songs my own.
As a bass player, what does it mean to you to be featured by Bass Musician magazine - both with interviews and them pushing your videos?
To just say that I’m honored would probably be the understatement of the year. I’ve been following Bass Musician Magazine for as long as I can remember, and they’ve featured the likes to Victor Wooten, Les Claypool, Larry Graham, Marcus Miller, and numerous other legendary bassists. They’re one of the biggest and most reputable bass playing publications in the world; and the fact that Raul wanted to not only share my content online to his audience, but also sit down for an interview, was just surreal to me.
That being said; in terms of what this meant exactly, I believe it means that I’m doing something right. That I’ve figured out a way to stand out from the pack, while also being able to provide value with what I have to share.
In the video interview with Bass Musician you mentioned growing up in a family of musicians. I know your brother John played saxophone in Running Late, what other instruments were in your family?
Oh, there’s quite a lot of instruments! Off the top of my head; my family has drums, sax, piano, guitar, harmonica, and vocals. I can’t speak enough about how fortunate I am to have such a musical family, especially with the variety of instruments that everyone is proficient at. It’s played a quintessential role in not only developing my creativity, but also in building upon my love for music.
In the interview it was said that you started out on the cello. Was that instrument sort of chosen for you by your parents or the school? Or were you attracted to it? Did you get far with the training? Ever play it still?
I’m pretty sure the cello was chosen for me by the school, as I can’t recall ever actually having a say in the matter. Although; once I started playing it, I thought it was an extremely cool instrument due to both its versatile range, and quite honestly, it’s shape. Sadly, I haven’t continued to play the cello since moving on to bass, but I do plan on changing that down the road.
How did you gravitate to the bass? Did you take to it right away?
Well, it’s a pretty funny story; throughout elementary school, my orchestra teacher absolutely hated how awful my posture was on cello, due to having pretty bad scoliosis at the time. Once I got into middle school, they started to introduce stand up basses as options for instruments. My orchestra teacher then, essentially, forced me onto the bass under the context that it would be more comfortable for me to play. Although she wasn’t wrong, I always took it as the greatest cop out of all time for her not having to continue to endure my poor posture on cello.
That being said, I did have an affinity for learning the bass quite quickly. Whether it was due to me more easily understanding an instrument that was tuned in fourths compared to fifths... or just simply that it was forced onto me, I stuck with it as my main instrument ever since.
Who are some of the bass players you admire? And who could be called inspirations for you?
There really are so many bass players that I both admire and look up to as inspirations, but 4 stand out from the rest:
Cliff Burton: his incredible ability to play both rhythm and lead on bass for Metallica forever redefined how the instrument was viewed in the rock and metal genre’s.
Larry Graham: he’s widely accepted as the pioneer of bringing slap to the electric bass with Sly and the Family Stone.
Flea: his ability to fuse his aggressive playing in punk rock with both complex funk progressions, and melodic chord play, created a signature sound for the Chili Peppers like no other.
Victor Wooten: he’s a visionary who’s playing technique showcases limitless capabilities, which to me is the reason why he is probably the greatest bassist to have ever lived.
What all of them have in common is that they revolutionized the bass in ways that no one previously thought possible, which is something that I will always draw inspiration from in my efforts to aid in pushing the boundaries of the instrument even further.
Online it says you make a living as a full time musician, freelance marketer, and consultant for artists and businesses alike. As a musician - do you play sit in with other bands? Session recordings?
Previously, I was almost exclusively performing with Running Late, while also managing the project towards a major label trajectory. As of today; I haven’t really been doing any session recordings, but I am currently involved in both sit ins and a cover project by the name of “Governor Radio”. That being said; I am also actively looking to audition for either a major label, big indie, or any serious unsigned project that is vying for label support. Being a touring musician, and being a part of an original, creative collective, is something that I’ve missed tremendously. Hopefully by the end of the pandemic, that is something I can change sooner rather than later.
Tell me about your marketing and consulting services.
After earning my MBA in marketing at Fairleigh Dickinson University, I started doing freelance marketing consultation for a variety of businesses, ranging from restaurants to data analytics companies. Shortly after, I began opening my consultation services to artists who are looking for help in progressing and making sense of this extremely volatile and unforgiving industry.
What my services aim to accomplish is to educate not only artists, but also venue owners and anyone else in the music industry, on the concepts of how to provide real value to others: Which ranges from creating CJM’s (customer journey maps) that depict the common pitfalls that potential fans go through, to fostering better CRM (customer relationship management), breaking down and analyzing competitor strengths, optimizing SEO (search engine optimization), utilizing e-commerce, and educating clients on what labels, A&R’s, booking agents, and venue owners really look for in terms of working with and/or signing new artists.
For those who are interested to learn more about my services and rates, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll happily get back to you right away!
How difficult has it been for you to be away from playing live shows after having that be a big part of your life for the past decade or so?
It’s been beyond difficult; being able to go on stage and perform for others was something that myself, and I’m sure many others, took for granted. Live performance was the backbone of what I’ve prided myself on for the better part of a decade, and being without it has been nothing short of devastating. However; with the roll out of these vaccines, I’m confident in believing that I won’t have to wait much longer to perform on stage once again.
Finally, what advice can you give someone who hopes to be a working musician in today’s world?
The best piece of advice I can give to other musicians is to simply reiterate that things are going to get a lot better. The reality is that the need for live music hasn’t gone anywhere; streaming and drive in concerts have been a cheap (but necessary) substitute for going out to a venue with your friends, getting drinks, and rocking/dancing the night away. As venues start to increase their capacity limits, the need for live music is going to scale with it, thus providing more opportunity than ever for musicians to find work and return on stage.